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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Friday, 9 February 2007
Miranda Devine airbrushes bushfire arson motive at Goonoo, backs redneck attack on scientists, public servants
Mood:  down
Topic: election nsw 2007

Picture reference: "Instance of land clearing 100 km north west of Dubbo." in Sydney Morning Herald story "Cleared land to be farmed as regeneration plans go up in smoke" Date: April 3 2006 By Elicia Murray, including this quote

"VAST tracts of cleared land in north-western NSW are being prepared for farming, after the State Government failed in its attempt to have the area returned to its original bushland state.

Green groups and the Government have accused a Nyngan farmer of tearing down up to 2000 hectares of native bush on his property since 2002, in what they say is one of the state's worst cases of unauthorised land clearing."


In the age of global warming where every carbon store is a boon, there are agriculturalists who demand the right to continue to log and clear established woodlands. Anyone who watches An Inconvenient Truth and the awesome melting patterns of Greenland and West Antarctic would be planting them not the opposite.


When these redneck farmers and loggers lose the argument as they did at Goonoo Pilliga in North West NSW in early 2005 it seems they want to take it out on innocent public servants.


Climate change sceptic Miranda Devine had this malicious article Jan 28th 2007 p15 Sydney Sun Herald:




It’s a holy commandment of the volunteer bushfire figher community that politics should not interfere with the cooperative effort of the local community. Everyone in the country should pull together to deal with the common threat. But Miranda Devine stirs up potentially devastating division and conflict amongst locals in the Dubbo area leveraging contested land use decisions that farmers lost in 2005, just as the pro land clearing farmers at The Land did in 2005.


Her article reads in part

IT'S THE talk of Dubbo. Two weeks ago, as a bushfire was raging through the Goonoo Community Conservation Area, an angry showdown between Rural Fire Service volunteers and National Parks and Wildlife Service employees threatened to derail firefighting efforts.

The streets are abuzz with the story of how, at the height of the blaze, greenie NPWS workers drove their vehicles in front of a bulldozer driver trying to clear a firebreak in order to stop him damaging any more vegetation.

And over the next few days, furious firefighters said every time they cleared a firebreak, a NPWS crew was behind them, infuriatingly pushing vegetation back onto the track.

The fire was eventually extinguished last week, having ravaged 60,000 hectares of the national park and threatened adjoining farms. But the white-hot anger among local volunteer firefighters still burns.

"There's a lot of bad blood out here," local farmer and retired RFS fire control officer Kevin Brown says.

NPWS spokesman John Dengate says the story is simply a "misunderstanding" that has spread like Chinese whispers.

He says it was only one vehicle, containing two NPWS employees who had driven from Sydney, who "happened to park their car in front of" the bulldozer driver. "The idea that Parks [and Wildlife] would try to stop the firebreak is ridiculous."

Dengate concedes there were arguments about the width of firebreaks, with NPWS staffers trying to tell bulldozer drivers to make them narrower, "because it's faster and more effective". He confirms that one overzealous NPWS employee was stood down.

RFS incident controller Don Jenks, called in by Dengate to further clarify matters, says some firebreaks were so wide "you could land a 747 on them". But he agreed his crew were upset when NPWS staffers started "refurbishing" firebreaks before the flames had been extinguished.

As for the bulldozer incident, Jenks was initially furious, but later discovered only one NPWS car had stopped the driver because "they just wanted to talk to him".

Much of the disagreement stemmed from the fact that NPWS people thought a D8 bulldozer was too big, whereas the firefighters wanted a big dozer for wide tracks to ensure the fire wouldn't escape to neighbouring farms, as it had to devastating effect from nearby Goobang National Park in December, 2001.

It's no wonder there is bad blood between the NPWS and local farmers, most of whom are volunteer firefighters.”

But the redneck firefighters were not so keen to fight any fire in this conservation area back in May 2005. Back then according to The Land the farmer clearers were flirting with bushfire revenge for losing the farming land use decision intent on logging and clearing.


Picture: Street posters by The Wilderness Society taken by this writer in late 2006 on City Rd at Camperdown and Carrington Rd Waverley in Sydney in the approach to the March 2007 NSW election.

Back in 2005 this writer reported on a Sydney independent media website the following situation in rural land politics:


“Peter Austin and The Land, cracks up, exhorts fire bugs in the Pilliga?


The latest issue of The Land, published by JB Fairfax/Rural Press from memory, a stand alone news company, goes dangerously close to exhorting firebug revenge on the Carr government for its latest forest conservation decision. Some other assumptions in its coverage are also hysterical, misleading and ultimately a disservice to a rural readers.


Here is a link to a previous imc post on the mass media details of the decision for north west forests: http://www.sydney.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=54957


[refers to Goonoo Pilliga conservation decision covering some 348,000 ha which outraged the farmers who wanted to use the land. It was Bob Carr’s conservation decision swansong and a very good one despite his pro woodchipping broken promises in south east NSW.]


The front cover of the May 12th editon has a Bob Carr graphic in Pinocchio 'liar' mode on the allegation Carr changed his tune from an interview in 2003 extracted inside the paper for a more redneck final decision. But perhaps that was before the logging union national leadership betrayed federal Labor in Tasmania helping to return a dishonest Howard Government?


Also perhaps the editor and senior writers like Peter Austin understand how the ecologically minded felt in 1998/99 when it became clear that the east coast logging/conservation decisions made it clear Carr had no intention of keeping his 1995 election promise to end woodchipping of native forest by the year 2000. That promise is now 5 years broken.


Irresponsible firebug talk in The Land

In The Land's press tantrum they include dangerously irresponsible prose virtually exhorting firebug behaviour from supporters of the logging industry who know all too well about starting and organising 'controlled burns' after logging. Further it is well known that anti conservationists have started fires before such as the infamous Dunbogan koala colony despicably burnt by a corrupt apparently alcoholic NPWS officer in an attempt to ease approval of a white shoe canal estate real estate project just south of Port Macquarie in the 1980/early 90's.


These pro fire bug quotes in The Land include:


Quoting Opposition spokesperson Duncan Gay at page 7: "Years of careful forest management to keep fuel levels down has the potential to go up in smoke"


"NSW is faced with the prospect that 348,00 hectares of locked-up forest could turn into a destructive and unstoppable forest fire"


The Land continues"


"(Local brigade captian and NSW Farmers executive councillor, Rod Young, Purlewaugh, said his members would not be volunteering for future fire fighting duty inside any new reserved areas.)"


The Land editorialist then writes at p12


"Hundreds of thousands of hectares of woodlands ... will now be locked up to await the inevitable and frightening firestorms which will do far , far more damage in a few hours than a century of sawmilling."


Putting aside the inconsistency of quoting fire damage as a problem, and yet supporting firestick management so often praised by farmers and loggers based on the known recuperative ability of native bush, are these quotes above code for tacit support for firebug revenge? That could well be one interpretation.


Responsible fire management is indeed a definite aspect of proper management of the area to mimic natural and Aboriginal land management history over the last 100 and thousands of years.  But that doesn't equal an outdated hunter gatherer logging industry.


Ecological case for decision

The Land argues that the whole forest area is really just a human artefact anyway of only the last 100 years or so (p8, "Forest's roots not in the 'dreamtime'). That sounds a little weak and folksy but it is a fair question to ask again what is the public interest in this latest decison for the welfare and good government of all urban and rural and regional voters together.


Certainly looking to the past is no final answer for what is best to do now. As the UN has pointed out at:




humanity is using up the ecological space at a frightening rate threatening civilisation as we know it within only possibly fifty years. There is no point living in denial about this.


I asked David Butcher head of Greening Australia last week, a really quite conservative green group, what he thought and he said it was a pretty good decision and wondered about the detail of the newly invented  management tenure: multiple use Community Conservation Zone. I asked about the timing and he said it was due back in February 05 and years in the consideration.


Then there are the arguments of the ecologically minded Western Conservation Alliance emphasising the nature values and eco tourism values of the region (recognised with  $2.5 million govt fund for a new centre): Refer




with extensive posts there. You can be sure there will be a great array of threatened and endangered species. That's the reality of the high consumption world we live in now and forever more.



Water production issues

Look at the other indirectly related coverage in the same issue of The Land. The NSW Farmers Association's Mal Peters column dwells on the "nightmare" drought in NSW at page 13, and another story talks about a $30 million project to better manage the existing water in the Barren Box Wetland at page 27. This disruption of water supplies is very likely related to landscape scale vegetation clearance of some 1 million hectares in NSW alone of the last 10 years, and much more over the last 100 years. Vegetation, and especially mature forest, acts as a water sponge and reservoir with a constant clean trickle in times of low rainfall, but a dust bowl holds none.  It is very well known too that regrowth forest is a major net user of water. This implies conservation not regrowth conversion or ongoing clearfelling.


Prevention of salinsation threat

Then there is the imperative to protect the remnant native vegetation of the central and western division to avoid the devestating impacts of salinisation on the future of agriculture. Already over the last few years we have seen projections from scientists of ten million hectares or more of prime agricultural lands destroyed nationally by dry land salinity from rising water tables. This is the direct cause and effect of vegetation clearance. In this regard the high impacts in the WA wheat belt is the alarm bell to Qld, NSW and Victoria. Only a fool government and big agri business would ignore the creeping destruction of their best productive land, as well as disintegration of regional infrastructure in roads, bridges, building foundations including flooded cellars of country pubs from rising salty water. This in itself is a compelling case for managing the north west forest as a mature ecosystem to maximise a lowering of the water table over whole landscapes.


Real politik lead up to 2007
There is little doubt in this writers mind that the Carr govt are revisiting their successful nature conservation wedge strategy of the Lib/Nat Coalition in the 1994 lead up to 1995 election, in that case east coast native forest conservation. Further that this strategy applied to the sparsely populated central and western divisions will help moderate traditional urban Labor and Green anger from grotesque and corrupt developer agendas in the urban/Sydney environment.

In an indirect way ecologically minded people can thank the effective opposition under John Brogden for the re-emergence of this previous successful Carr strategy.

Whether it will be enough to win in 2007 is an interesting question that John Brogden should be addressing. He could afford to get a bit more green in the urban areas and promise not to undo what Carr has done regionally, get over the idea of no second dam (forget silly Costello on this point) in favour of water recycling and thus outflank Carr for the greater welfare and good government of NSW.

cpppcltrust.com/ecologyactionsydney "

[SAM editor: All this has happened with Iemma water and greenhouse tv advertising campaign, when before it was ‘saving trees and jobs’ with forest images, and Debnam instead of Brogden pushing water recycling.]





The clearer-farmers have been attacking everyone ever since 2005 via their media spin doctors. Parks Service firefighters via Miranda Devine’s story above. Michael Duffy story reported below. Scientists in this story back on 23rd October 2003.



THE LAND, EDITION NEWS : AGRIBUSINESS AND GENERAL  'Out of control...'   By Alan Dick   Thursday, 23 October 2003


NSW Farmers Association president, Mal Peters, has called on the NSW Government to suspend immediately the NSW Scientific Committee which determines which plant and animal species are declared endangered or


….. He said in the case of the most recent preliminary listing, the coolibah-blackbox woodlands of northern NSW, the listing seemed to have been made solely on the personal opinion of John Benson of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.

  … Mr Peters said the Scientific Committee was far from independent, with many of its members from State government agencies such as the National Parks and Wildlife Service which had a huge vested interest in seeing more listings.

  ….. But Mr Benson said on Tuesday his views on the coolibah-blackbox community of the northern plains had been based on a review of dozens of scientific papers and the committee had had access to the entire data base.

……He said also the 150,000ha land clearing figure had been chosen by journalists when he had suggested in 1994 land clearing in NSW between 1980 and 1995 had run between 100,000 to 200,000ha a year. In 1995 he had modified that to about 50,000ha for 1995 onwards, then with native grassland factored in had lifted it to 60,000ha. Mr Benson said also he had always supported stewardship payments for landholders …"I'm the person who helped them get the $120 million (for on-farm works to protect native vegetation)," he said.


Wildlife campaigner for the Humane Society International, Averil Bones, said the nomination process for threatened species was rigorous and demanded good peer-reviewed science. She said the society's nomination of the woodlands had cited the work of at least 20 scientists and several Government departments.




The question is worth asking how the fire at Goonoo conservation area got started. This writer is well aware of a rogue government staffer and alcoholic who was known in the 1980’s to light up Crowdy Head National Park near Laurieton/Dunbogan on the central coast, to burn the Dunbogan koala reserve being targeted for canal estates by a developer. Canal estates that were banned by Bob Carr, one of the first actions his government in 1995.


Not by coincidence in any respect, a marginal seat in proximity of Goonoo Pilliga is being contested at Dubbo held by Independent Dawn Fardell, and this is the real target of grubby Miranda Devine. Similarly veteran Alex Mitchell carries bitchy gossip in Naked Eye in the same Sunday Herald Fairfax paper on Feb 4 07 “Dubbo’s left fuming” over a total exaggerating of the local MP opening a renovated PCYC facility instead of the police minister. I mean WTF? That’s what local MP’s do, as is quite proper. With or without the government minister.


This is also the subtext to the outrageously biased article by Michael Duffy in favour of land clearers recently here Saturday 3rd February 2007:


Why Nyngan and Waverley are poles apart


airbrushing the highly contested problem of landclearing rates. Duffy treats unscientific unproven anecdote as fact by referencing a suspect Ch9 Sunday story by Ross Coulthard on the land clearing issue broadcast in August 2006. It just so happens and it is well known in the non government groups that Peter Wilkinson (pictured at right), a media consultant here




is a colleague and ex staffer at Ch9 to Ross Coulthard, and that Wilkinson has been paid a 6 figure sum to generate PR spin for NSW farmer interests on this land clearing issue (source pers comm. Reece Turner The Wilderness Society). For instance Wilkinson Media carry this paper:

Dec '05: Want to change a law? Or manage change?


With this opening line


 Wilkinson Media has outlined some key questions to consider for a successful campaign by industry to change laws. And remember – a partnership with Government is critical to managed and sustained change.”


Obviously Wilkinson, who also appears on the abc radio Trioli “spin doctors” segment occasionally, is behind the Sunday show story, and thus Duffy referencing in the flagship Sydney Morning Herald: A PR fix to undo a sound government measure to help combat amongst other things global warming and species extinctions.


Earlier this week this writer left a complaint to this effect with the editorial at the Sydney Morning Herald namely Duffy treating Wilkinson’s spin via Coulthard as fact when it is surely paid for opinion for NSW farmer clearers and resplendent with undeclared apparent conflict of interest as regards Coulthard, Sunday, their mate Wilkinson and the farmers money.


Postscript #1 9 Feb 2007


NSW Stateline leads with a strong story first programme back this season with Jock Laurie of the NSW Farmers Association that they want to engage in the carbon trading market in this new global warming, climate change reality. Quite a show, and possibly a balancer to this quite deliberately brutal story above. The detail will appear in due course here:



We have also notified Miranda Devine via her public email address with a note that this has gone to the NSW political community which is true.

Posted by editor at 8:40 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 9 February 2007 9:44 PM EADT

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